French rail group on track to relaunch Orient Express

French rail group on track to relaunch Orient Express :SNCF, the French rail group, hopes to have the legendary Orient Express service running once more within five years.

The Orient Express, the Paris to Istanbul train service immortalised by crime writer Agatha Christie, is set to steam back into business after vanishing from European rail timetables in 2009, thanks to the French rail group SNCF.

State-owned SNCF, which has owned the Orient Express brand name since 1977, will this week announce plans to have the route that began life in 1883 up and running once more within five years.

The relaunched service will initially run between Paris and Vienna, carrying 150 passengers at a time. SNCF is working on designs for a number of “concept” carriages fitted with modern furnishings and fixtures, which it hopes will set a new standard for luxury travel.

Getting the legendary trainline back on track is the cornerstone of SNCF’s plans to develop the Orient Express brand as a byword for luxury through a range of related products and services.

The spin-offs will be developed by SNCF’s new subsidiary, called Orient Express, which has signed an agreement with the luggage-maker owned by the French luxury goods billionaire, Bernard Arnault, to develop branded suitcases.

Luxury mattresses that will retail for up to €40,000 (£33,000) are also being explored, in partnership with the French manufacturer Cauval.

SNCF will launch the new company in April with an exhibition at the Arab World Institute in Paris. Its initial investment in developing Orient Express products will be between €40m and €60m.

To date, SNCF’s only commercial venture from the Orient Express brand name has been a licensing deal to allow the UK hotel group, Orient Express Hotels, to use the name and to run the separate Venice-Simplon Orient Express trans-Europe rail service.

Frank Bernard, the SNCF’s director of development, who will run the new Orient Express company, said: “We want to develop a brand that has luxury travel and French lifestyle at its centre.

French rail group on track to relaunch Orient Express

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